Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
Anointing was used in antiquity in three chief connexions: (1) as a part of the toilet, to beautify, strengthen, and refresh the body; (2) medicinally; (3) as a part of religious ceremonial. From the last-named sprang (4) the use of terms of anointing in a metaphorical sense to signify, e.g. , the imparting of the Divine Spirit, whether to the Messiah or to the Christian disciple.
1. So far as the first use is concerned, examples within our period may be found in the anointing of the Lord’s feet ( Luke 7:38; Luke 7:46, John 12:3) and in Matthew 6:17 ‘anoint thy head, and wash thy face.’
2. Instances of the second occur in John 9:6; John 9:11, Revelation 3:18 ‘eyesalve to anoint thine eyes,’ and are generally found in Mark 6:13 ‘they anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them,’ and James 5:14 ‘Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.’ The commentators on these texts generally quote passages to prove that the use of oil was well known in medicine, and leave it to be understood that the apostles in the Gospel and the elders in the Epistle are thought of as making use of the simplest healing remedy known to them. This method of interpretation does not seem satisfactory, because the parallels quoted do not bear out the point. In Isaiah 1:6 and Luke 10:34 oil is used as a remedy for wounds, not for internal sickness. Herod in his last illness was placed in a bath of warm oil (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) i. xxxiii. 5), but this was only one amongst several methods of treatment used in his case, and was no doubt employed because of the open and running sores on his body. Galen ( Med. Temp. , bk. ii.) speaks of oil as the ‘best of medicines for withered and dry bodies,’ but that does not mean that he would have advocated the indiscriminate use of oil in cases of sickness due to various causes. Philo’s praise of oil for imparting vigour to the flesh ( Somn . ii. 8) must not be pressed into an advocacy of it as a panacea against all forms of disease. It must remain doubtful whether the two NT passages can be reasonably understood to mean that oil was used as a simple medical remedy without deeper signification.
3. The use of anointing in religious ceremony was very varied. It was applied both to persona-as, e.g. , to the kings and high priests-and to inanimate things. This is not the place to investigate the original signification of the act of anointing in religious ceremonies (see Robertson Smith, Rel. Sem . 2, 1894, pp. 233, 383; Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , Encyclopaedia Biblica , article‘Anointing’), but it seems clear that it came to signify the consecration of persons and things to the service of God, and also the communication to, e.g. , the kings, of the Divine Spirit (see E. Kautzsch, in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) v. 659). That is to say, anointing had in part the nature of a sacrament. And it seems probable that something of this sort underlies the passages Mark 6:13, James 5:14. The anointing oil was not merely medicinal, but consecrated the patient to God, and, together with prayer, was the means of conveying to him the Divine healing life. We may compare a passage in the Secrets of Enoch (22:8), where Enoch, when carried into the presence of God, is anointed with holy oil, with the result (56:2) that he needs no food, and is purged from earthly passions.
4. Instances of the metaphorical use of anointing to signify the communication of the Divine Spirit are to be found in 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27 ‘ye have an anointing from the Holy One,’ ‘his anointing teacheth you all things.’ ‘Anointing’ here means the material, not the act, of anointing, and so the grace of the Holy Spirit. The same metaphorical use is found in 2 Corinthians 1:21, ‘He that hath anointed us is God’; and in the passages in which Christ is spoken of as having been anointed, Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:9 (OT quot.). A passage in the recently discovered Odes of Solomon (36:5), ‘He hath anointed me from his own perfection,’ may be referred to here. It is uncertain whether the speaker is Christ or the Christian. Allusions to a custom of anointing dead bodies are found in Mark 14:8 and the parallels, and in Mark 16:1.
Lastly, reference should be made to the abstention from anointing by the Essenes (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. viii. 3). This is explained by Schürer ( History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] ii. ii. 212) as a part of an attempt to return to the simplicity of nature; by Bousset ( Rel. des Judges 1:2, Berlin, 1906, p. 442) as a protest against the priesthood, whose authority rested upon anointing.
Literature.-See the articles ‘Anointing’ in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics , Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , and Encyclopaedia Biblica ; and, for the development of the doctrine of Extreme Unction in the Church, J. B. Mayor on James 5:14 ( Ep. of St. James 3, 1910); see also Expository Times xvii.  418ff. and the literature there cited.
Willoughby C. Allen.
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Anointing in Holy Scripture is either: I., with oil; or II., with the Holy Ghost. I. With Oil. 1. Anointing the body or head with oil was a common practice with the Jews, as with other oriental nations. Deuteronomy 28:40; Ruth 3:3; Micah 6:15. Abstinence from it was a sign of mourning. 2 Samuel 14:2; Daniel 10:3; Matthew 6:17. Anointing the head with oil or ointment seems also to have been a mark of respect sometimes paid by a host to his guests. Luke 7:46 and Psalms 23:5. The bodies of the dead were often anointed, not with a view to preserve them from corruption, but to impart a fragrancy to the linen in which the corpse was wrapped. Mark 14:8; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56; John 19:39-40. 2. Anointing with oil was a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices of the Jewish commonwealth, ( A ) Prophets were occasionally anointed to their office, 1 Kings 19:16, and are called messiahs, or anointed. 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalms 105:15. ( B ) Priests, at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood, were all anointed to their offices, the sons of Aaron as well as Aaron himself, Exodus 40:15; Numbers 3:3; but afterwards, anointing seems not to have been repeated at the consecration of ordinary priests, but to have been especially reserved for the high priest, Exodus 29:29; Leviticus 16:32; so that "the priest that is anointed," Leviticus 4:3, is generally thought to mean the high priest, ( C ) Kings. Anointing was the principal and divinely appointed ceremony in the inauguration of the Jewish kings. 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Kings 1:34; 1 Kings 1:39. The rite was sometimes performed more than once. David was thrice anointed to be king. After the separation into two kingdoms, the kings both of Judah and of Israel seem still to have been anointed. 2 Kings 9:3; 2 Kings 11:12. ( D ) Inanimate objects also were anointed with oil in token of their being set apart for religious service. Thus Jacob anointed a pillar at Bethel, Genesis 31:13; and at the introduction of the Mosaic economy, the tabernacle and all its furniture were consecrated by anointing. Exodus 30:26 to Exodus 28:3. Ecclesiastical. Anointing with oil in the name of the Lord is prescribed by James to be used together with prayer, by the elders of the church, for the recovery of the sick. James 5:14. Analogous to this is the anointing with oil practised by the twelve. Mark 6:13. II. With The Holy Ghost. 1. In the Old Testament a Deliverer is promised under the title of Messiah, or Anointed, Psalms 2:2; Daniel 9:24-26; and the nature of his anointing is described to be spiritual, with the Holy Ghost. Isaiah 61:1; see Luke 4:18. In the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth is shown to be the Messiah or Christ, or anointed of the Old Testament, John 1:41; Acts 9:22; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 18:4-5; Acts 18:28; and the historical fact of his being anointed with the Holy Ghost is asserted and recorded. Acts 10:38; Acts 4:27; John 1:32-33. 2. Spiritual anointing with the Holy Ghost is conferred also upon Christians by God. 2 Corinthians 1:21, and they are described as having an unction from the Holy One, by which they know all things. 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27.
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
Anointing. Anointing in Holy Scripture, is either, I. Material - with oil - or II. Spiritual - with the Holy Ghost.
1. Ordinary. Anointing the body or head with oil was a common practice with the Jews, as with other Oriental nations.; Ruth 3:3; Micah 6:15. Anointing the head with oil or ointment seems also to have been a mark of respect sometimes paid by a host to his guests. Luke 7:46 and Psalms 23:5.
2. Official. It was a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices of the Jewish commonwealth.
a. Prophets were occasionally anointed to their office, 1 Kings 19:16, and were called messiahs, or anointed. 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalms 105:15.
b. Priests, at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood, were all anointed to their offices, Exodus 40:15; Numbers 3:3, but afterwards anointing seems to have been specially reserved for the high priest, Exodus 29:29; Leviticus 16:32, so that "the priest that is anointed," Leviticus 4:3, is generally thought to mean the high priest.
c. Kings. Anointing was the principal and divinely-appointed ceremony in the inauguration of the Jewish Kings. 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Kings 1:34; 1 Kings 1:39. The rite was sometimes performed more than once. David was thrice anointed.
d. Inanimate objects also were anointed with oil, in token of their being set apart for religious service. Thus Jacob anointed a pillar at Bethel. ( Genesis 31:13; Exodus 30:26-28.
3. Ecclesiastical. Anointing with oil is prescribed by St. James to be used for the recovery of the sick. James 5:14. Analogous to this is the anointing with oil practiced by the twelve. Mark 6:13.
In the Old Testament, a Deliverer is promised under the title of Messiah , or Anointed, Psalms 2:2; Daniel 9:25-26, and the nature of his anointing is described to be spiritual, with the Holy Ghost. Isaiah 61:1. See Luke 4:18.
In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is shown to be the Messiah , or Christ , or Anointed , of the Old Testament, John 1:41; Acts 9:22; Acts 17:2-3; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:28, and the historical fact of his being anointed with the Holy Ghost is asserted and recorded. John 1:32-33; Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38. Christ was anointed as prophet priest and king.
Spiritual anointing with the Holy Ghost is conferred also upon Christians by God. 2 Corinthians 1:21. "Anointing" expresses the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit upon Christians who are priests and kings unto God.
Morrish Bible Dictionary 
There are several Hebrew words thus translated, but some of them occur but once, as
1. In Psalm 23:5 , "Thou anointest my head with oil," signifying made fat, the oil used plentifully.
2. Psalm 92:10 , "I shall be anointed with fresh oil," from 'to pour over,' 'overflow with' oil.
3. Isaiah 10:27 , "the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing (text obscure).
4. Zechariah 4:14 , "these are the two anointed ones," lit . 'sons of oil,' cf. Revelation 11:4 .
5. suk , 'to anoint the body after washing,' like ἀλείφω in the N.T., is commonly used for the practice among the orientals of anointing the body, or its parts, for comfort, appearance, friendliness, healing, or burial. For the ordinary toilet cf. Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Chronicles 28:15; Matthew 6:17 . To neglect this was a sign of mourning 2 Samuel 14:2; Daniel 10:3 . As an act of courtesy cf. Luke 7:46; John 12:3; the sick were also anointed, Mark 6:13; James 5:14; also the dead body, Mark 14:8; Mark 16:1 . One of the punishments on Israel was that the olives should not yield oil for the anointing. Deuteronomy 28:40; Micah 6:15 .
6. mashach, χρίω, 'to spread over, to anoint' for an office, etc. Kings were anointed: Saul, David, Solomon, Joash, Jehu, and Hazael are examples. Prophets were anointed; for Psalm 105:15 should read'anointed ones;' and cf. 1 Kings 19:16 . Special oil made according to God's directions was used for the anointing of the priests . Exodus 30:30; Exodus 40:13 . With the same oil the tabernacle and its vessels were anointed. Exodus 40:9,10 . The meat offering was anointed with oil, Leviticus 2:1,4 , typical of the pure humanity of the Lord Jesus, and of His being sealed by the Holy Spirit. The cleansed leper was anointed with oil. Leviticus 14:17,18 .
Whether this last anointing refers to persons or things and whether the oil is that specially prepared or common oil, the sanctification and power of the Holy Spirit is invariably typified thereby. Anointing with oil for consecration to office is not now enjoined on believers, for they are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and are also priests to God. John reminds even the babes in Christ that they have an unction from the Holy One, and the anointing (the same word, χρίσμα)abideth in them. 1 John 2:20,27 . Thus, as in the O.T., the kings, prophets, and priests were anointed as set apart for God, so the Christian is by the Holy Spirit sanctified for God , both as to his position and service. See THE ANOINTED.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
In Old Testament times, a common practice was to appoint priests, kings, and sometimes prophets to their positions by the ceremony of anointing. Holy oil was poured over the head of the person as a sign that he was set apart for the service of God. He now had the right, and the responsibility, to perform the duties that his position required ( Exodus 28:41; Numbers 3:2-3; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 19:16; 2 Kings 9:3; Psalms 18:50; Psalms 28:8; Psalms 105:15). (Concerning the everyday eastern custom of anointing the heads of visitors and guests see Hospitality .)
Things as well as people could be anointed. Moses anointed the tabernacle and its equipment to indicate that they were set apart for sacred use ( Exodus 30:22-30). The oil used to anoint the priests and the tabernacle was prepared according to a special formula that was not to be used for any other purpose ( Exodus 30:26-33). Official anointing carried with it the authority of God, and therefore no one could lawfully challenge the appointment ( 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 24:6).
Anointing was also associated with the gift of God’s special power, or the gift of his Spirit, for carrying out some specific task ( 1 Samuel 16:13). Originally, such anointing was a physical ceremony, but because of this spiritual significance, people began to use the word ‘anoint’ solely in a spiritual or metaphorical sense. It symbolized the outpouring of God’s Spirit in equipping a person for God’s service ( Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38).
This usage of the word was later extended even further, so that the Bible could speak of all who receive the Holy Spirit as being anointed ( 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27). Jesus was in a special sense God’s Anointed ( Luke 4:18; Acts 4:26-27; Acts 10:38; see Messiah ).
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
Was a custom in general use among the Hebrews and other oriental nations, and its omission was one sign of mourning, Isaiah 61:3 . They anointed the hair, head, and beard, Psalm 104:15 133:2 . At their feasts and rejoicings they anointed the whole body; but sometimes only the head or feet, Psalm 23:5 Matthew 6:17 John 12:3 . It was a customary mark of respect to guests, Luke 7:38,46 . The use of oil upon the skin was thought to be conducive to health. Anointing was then used, and is still, medicinally, Mark 6:13 James 5:14; but the miraculous cures thus wrought by the apostles furnish no warrant for the ceremony just before death called "extreme unction." The anointing of dead bodies was also practiced, to preserve them from corruption, Mark 14:8 16:1 Luke 23:56 . They anointed kings and high priests at their inauguration, Exodus 29:7,29 Leviticus 4:3 Judges 9:8 1 Samuel 9:16 1 Kings 19:15,15 , as also the sacred vessels of the tabernacle and temple, Exodus 30:26 . This anointing of sacred persons and objects signified their being set apart and consecrated to the service of God; and the costly and fragrant mixture appointed for this purpose was forbidden for all others, Exodus 30:23-33 Ezekiel 23:41 .
The custom of anointing with oil or perfume was also common among the Greeks and Romans; especially the anointing of guests at feasts and other entertainments.
King James Dictionary 
ANOINT'ING, ppr. Smearing with oil pouring on oil, or other oleaginous substance consecrating.
ANOINT'ING, n. The act of smearing with oil a consecrating.
Webster's Dictionary 
(p. pr. & vb. n.) of Anoint
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
The practice of anointing with perfumed oils or ointments appears to have been very common among the Hebrews, as it was among the ancient Egyptians. The practice, as to its essential meaning, still remains in the East; but perfumed waters are now far more commonly employed than oils or ointments.
In the Scriptures three kinds of anointing are distinguishable:— 1. For consecration and inauguration; 2. For guests and strangers; 3. For health and cleanliness. Of these in order:
Consecration and Inauguration
1. The act of anointing appears to have been viewed as emblematical of a particular sanctification; of a designation to the service of God; or to a holy and sacred use. Hence the anointing of the high priests ( Exodus 29:29; Leviticus 4:3), and even of the sacred vessels of the tabernacle ( Exodus 30:26, etc.); and hence also, probably, the anointing of the king, who, as 'the Lord's anointed,' and, under the Hebrew constitution, the viceroy of Jehovah, was undoubtedly invested with a sacred character.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
a - noint´ing : A distinction was made by the ancient Hebrews between anointing with oil in private use, as in making one's toilet (סוּך , ṣūkh ), and anointing as a religious rite (משׁח , māshaḥ ).
1. Ordinary Use
(1) As regards its secular or ordinary use, the native olive oil, alone or mixed with perfumes, was commonly used for toilet purposes, the very poor naturally reserving it for special occasions only (Rth 3:3). The fierce protracted heat and biting lime dust of Palestine made the oil very soothing to the skin, and it was applied freely to exposed parts of the body, especially to the face ( Psalm 104:15 ).
(2) The practice was in vogue before David's time, and traces of it may be found throughout the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 28:40; Rth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Samuel 14:2; 2 Chronicles 28:15; Ezekiel 16:9; Micah 6:15; Daniel 10:3 ) and in the New Testament ( Matthew 6:17 , etc.). Indeed it seems to have been a part of the daily toilet throughout the East.
(3) To abstain from it was one token of mourning ( 2 Samuel 14:2; compare Matthew 6:17 ), and to resume it a sign that the mourning was ended ( 2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Samuel 14:2; Daniel 10:3; Judith 10:3). It often accompanied the bath (Rth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20; Ezekiel 16:9; Susanna 17), and was a customary part of the preparation for a feast ( Ecclesiastes 9:8; Psalm 23:5 ). One way of showing honor to a guest was to anoint his head with oil ( Psalm 23:5; Luke 7:46 ); a rarer and more striking way was to anoint his feet ( Luke 7:38 ). In James 5:14 , we have an instance of anointing with oil for medicinal purposes, for which see Oil .
2. Religious Use
Anointing as a religious rite was practiced throughout the ancient East in application both to persons and to things.
(1) It was observed in Canaan long before the Hebrew conquest, and, accordingly, Weinel (Stade's Zeitschrift , Xviii , 50ff) holds that, as the use of oil for general purposes in Israel was an agricultural custom borrowed from the Canaanites, so the anointing with sacred oil was an outgrowth from its regular use for toilet purposes. It seems more in accordance with the known facts of the case and the terms used in description to accept the view set forth by Robertson Smith ( Religion of the Semites , 2nd ed., 233, 383ff; compare Wellhausen, Reste des arabischen Heidenthums , 2nd ed., 125ff) and to believe that the ṣūkh or use of oil for toilet purposes, was of agricultural and secular origin, and that the use of oil for sacred purposes, māshaḥ , was in origin nomadic and sacrificial. Robertson Smith finds the origin of the sacred anointing in the very ancient custom of smearing the sacred fat on the altar ( maccēbhāh ), and claims, rightly it would seem, that from the first there was a distinct and consistent usage, distinguishing the two terms as above.
(2) The primary meaning of māshaḥ in Hebrew, which is borne out by the Arabic, seems to have been "to daub" or "smear." It is used of painting a ceiling in Jeremiah 22:14 , of anointing a shield in Isaiah 21:5 , and is, accordingly, consistently applied to sacred furniture, like the altar, in Exodus 29:36 and Daniel 9:24 , and to the sacred pillar in Genesis 31:13 : "where thou anointedst a pillar."
(3) The most significant uses of māshaḥ , however, are found in its application, not to sacred things , but to certain sacred persons . The oldest and most sacred of these, it would seem, was the anointing of the king , by pouring oil upon his head at his coronation, a ceremony regarded as sacred from the earliest times, and observed religiously not in Israel only, but in Egypt and elsewhere (see Judges 9:8 , Judges 9:15; 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1; 2 Samuel 19:10; 1 Kings 1:39 , 1 Kings 1:45; 2 Kings 9:3 , 2 Kings 9:6; 2 Kings 11:12 ). Indeed such anointing appears to have been reserved exclusively for the king in the earliest times, which accounts for the fact that "the Lord's anointed" became a synonym for "king" (see 1 Samuel 12:3 , 1 Samuel 12:5; 1 Samuel 26:11; 2 Samuel 1:14; Psalm 20:6 ). It is thought by some that the practice originated in Egypt, and it is known to have been observed as a rite in Canaan at a very early day. Tell el-Amarna Letters 37 records the anointing of a king.
(4) Among the Hebrews it was believed not only that it effected a transference to the anointed one of something of the holiness and virtue of the deity in whose name and by whose representative the rite was performed, but also that it imparted a special endowment of the spirit of Yahweh (compare 1 Samuel 16:13; Isaiah 61:1 ). Hence the profound reverence for the king as a sacred personage, "the anointed" (Hebrew, meshı̄aḥ YHWH ), which passed over into our language through the Greek Christos , and appears as "Christ".
(5) In what is known today as the Priestly Code, the high priest is spoken of as "anointed" ( Exodus 29:7; Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 8:12 ), and, in passages regarded by some as later additions to the Priestly Code, other priests also are thus spoken of ( Exodus 30:30; Exodus 40:13-15 ). Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as a prophet ( 1 Kings 19:16 ), but seems never to have done so. 1 Kings 19:16 gives us the only recorded instance of such a thing as the anointing of a prophet. Isaiah 61:1 is purely metaphorical (compare Dillmann on Leviticus 8:12-14 with ICC on Numbers 3:3; see also Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebraischen Archaologie , II, 124).
Jewish Encyclopedia , article "Anointing"; BJ , IV, ix, 10, DB , article "Anointing," etc.
- Anointing from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Anointing from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- Anointing from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Anointing from Morrish Bible Dictionary
- Anointing from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Anointing from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Anointing from King James Dictionary
- Anointing from Webster's Dictionary
- Anointing from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
- Anointing from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia